Childhood stammering is not uncommon – in fact, around 5% of children develop a stammer between the ages of 2 and 5, which is a period of rapid language acquisition.
Stammering can present in various different ways, but some things you may notice are:
- Your child is repeating sounds, part of words, or whole words several times e.g. “Mum-mum-mum-mummy I w-w-w-want the ball”
- Your child is stretching out certain sounds e.g. “I can see a fffffffish’
- Your child becomes stuck/cannot get any sound out at all for a few seconds
- Your child is displaying behaviours such as looking away, screwing their face up or using emphatic hand gestures whilst trying to talk
It is common for stammering to come and go – it may be worse at certain times of day, or when talking in certain situations, or you may notice that it happens on some days but not others.
Seeing your child struggle to speak in this way can be worrying, but in many cases, the stammer resolves without input from a therapist, and there are certainly some steps you can take to support your child at home:
- Listen to what your child is saying, and be patient while he finishes.
- Maintain eye contact whilst your child is talking, so that they know you are still interested in what they are telling you
- Try not to interrupt or finish the sentence, even if you know what he is trying to say
- Try to avoid giving advice such as ‘slow down’ or ‘take a deep breath’ – this can sometimes disrupt the flow of what your child is trying to say even more
- Instead, monitor your own rate of speech – if you have a tendency to talk quickly, try to slow down a little
- Make time for regular, short 1:1 play sessions with your child. Let him choose the toy, and follow his lead in play – try to create a calm, relaxed environment where he is given time to talk
- Consider your child’s routine, in particular their sleep habits – tiredness can impact on fluency so if there are any changes you can make to encourage more sleep, this may be helpful
- It is okay to acknowledge the stammer! Sometimes, commenting: ‘Oh, that got a bit stuck, nevermind!’ can be a helpful way of normalising the dysfluency, rather than never mentioning it at all.
So, when should you be concerned? Luckily, we have a separate blog post on that very topic, so to find out more head on over to https://helpmetotalk.co.uk/2020/07/07/stammering-when-should-i-be-concerned/
For more in depth tips and advice, please visit https://michaelpalincentreforstammering.org/about-stammering/parents/tips-for-parents/